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The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 focuses on ensuring that communications and media services, content, equipment, emerging technologies and new modes of transmission are accessible to users with disabilities. The bill is primarily targeted at communications software and equipment manufacturers, video service providers and producers of video content. The act requires that all communications and video programming be provided in an accessible manner to individuals with disabilities. The Act builds on a variety of current pieces of legislation relating to accessibility including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act amending and extending them and prior acts as needed. The principal act amended by the CVAA is the Communications Act of 1934 (“Communications Act”).

The overall requirements of the CVAA require that manufacturers and service providers of communications technology provide technology that is accessible, if achievable. Generally this means that equipment that is manufactured or services that are provided must be accessible to people with disabilities. If accessibility is not supported directly in the product or service, manufacturers or service providers must ensure that third party solutions that make the product accessible are available at nominal cost.

The CVAA broadly provides that accessibility only needs to be provided “when achievable,” which means with reasonable effort or expense as determined by the FCC. Generally speaking the barrier for accessible development being “not achievable” is high, and entities opting not to provide accessibility based on it being not achievable face the burden of proving this approach.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 is split into two titles that specify the following:

  • Title I – Communication Access. Title I amends specific sections of the Communications Act to increase the scope of communications services and equipment that must be accessible to disabled users.
  • Title II – Video Programming. Title II focuses on video programming and broadly requires that the FCC conduct inquiries and enforce regulations for making video programming, services and equipment accessible to disabled users.

It is worth noting that manufacturers of telecommunications equipment already have significant requirements under Section 255 of the Communications Act to produce telecommunication systems that provide support for access by individuals with disabilities. The CVAA is intended to build on these requirements and expand them to cover new technologies commonly used for the delivery of communications in the modern era. Notably, in Title I of the CVAA, this coverage is extended to include ACS services and equipment.